(12) Prison Notebook, 27.07.16

Below is a an extract from the first entries in my prison notebooks.

prison-riot-landscape-3-x-2
HMP Bedford exterior, and footage from a riot. Courtesy: The Sun, “What was the HMP Bedford prison riot about, how many inmates were involved and was anyone hurt?”

Today is my twelfth day at Bedford prison. Yesterday I saw my husband, Alexander, the only person to ever truly understand me. I cannot but help to feel as if I’ve been erased from everything ~ gone. There is a sense, when they arrest you after conviction, of shock, an explosion, a seizure. For the first week or so I couldn’t think, remember facts or, in the most desperate situation [this is fragment, without a conclusion]. I am about to smoke my last cigarette in prison, a “hand rolled” – absolutely disgusting. I will have proper cigarettes – American Spirits – on the outside. When? Hopefully on the 28th of September [I mistakenly thought this was my sentencing day], the prosecution wants 36 months (or weeks?) ~ and another 24 months – this is the worst case scenario (6 years!) [At this point I didn’t know if the time ran concurrently or consecutively]. I don’t know if I’ll survive until my sentencing, let alone 6 years. Absolute madness … It seems they’ll throw away the key and then exile me to the US. Away from Alexander, my love, the true love of my life. Apparently, or rather I know, Aaron [Sanders] will write to me – how lovely! I took real risks getting him out of Grants Pass [Oregon] — he’s starting a new life, college, etc. A free stay in NYC (more burnt bridges for me considering my relationship with Queen Mother is most probably in ruin! …). At this point all I can do is write, plan – or attempt – for the possible/likely deportation … I am scared. This place is filthy, the food is disgusting, I am stuck in cell 20-23 hours a day, only to be “released” to a tennis court size yard to walk in circles for 1/2 hour. Showers are dangerous, odd and strange places. I feel filthy, last week I was reminded of “being/feeling” like my brother – the long, dirty fingernails, the smell, the skin, the flesh, the disgusting roll-up cigarettes. Endless daytime television is an absolute hell — cop shows, auctions, gardens; hell would be better.

[…]

During my first week the sounds of screaming prisoners affected me — the banging, shouting prisoners — the insanity (or sanity?).

[…]

Prison is ultimately a punishment by humiliation. Confinement, overcrowding, extended sentences (or worse — unknown sentences!) arrest the subject. The “prisoner” of “offender’ is structured into the blurred lines between signifier(s): “human” “dog” (prisoners howl are called “boys” or “lads” — one time a group of prisoners lingered too long and the guard said “come on boys!”) and [we’re] numbers (mine is A0915DV). The lines of flight are bottled up – in England’s prisons – the television, the kettle, medications, etc. “make” a “domestic situation.” When regimes change, that is to say when the schedule changes, the acting governor writes “the purpose of this notice [of more in-cell lock-up usually] is to advise you about this in advance so you can plan your domestics around when the wing is open.” Arresting the subject with confinement (20-38 hours at a time, sometimes 72 hours if there is “a riot”), caged in a cell, enforced banality – the banality of punishment – creates a nexus of boringly constrained “administration.” Foucault’s biopower finds its ground zero in the prison. One has to come to grips with “the inside,” its daily routines, its painful conditioning (operant and otherwise). Turning itself [with the routine] daily, nightly and every moment, the prisoner [can] regress to earlier stages of development … Men regularly hold their genitals, hand-dipped in trousers, in open display. Infantalized, the subject grows into an infant – infants are hostile! Screaming, beating, clawing, howling (fucking – condoms and dental dams are available at HMP Bedford!), subjective and reflective consciousness becomes displaced. I, too, have experienced a series of regressions. The inability to articulate myself, loss of memory, people I know presently [from memory] fading into other faces from my past, and most shockingly – dreams of my mother. What does this reveal about the world “outside” these walls? Socioeconomic splintering(s) have already inserted criminality on “the poor” – a class I have never been able to entirely leave. The entire “regime” (another prison term) is expanded outwards from ultimate zero (O) – the prison [into the entire society]. Revolt, protest is met with, even in passive cases of resistance, the sadistic impulses of the guards. These – little Eichmann(s) – brutal subjects [who] “now” have their “chance” to humiliate “offenders.” Oh they’ve never had such power in their lives – keys! “Criminals with keys” raise the exigency of the question: “How do we abolish prisons from the entire planet?”

How to end this madness, which is the sanity of good citizens – a Jury of twelve sent me here after all.

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